The 90s have been in resurgence for years; from its fashion trends to its relative technological naivety, little pieces of it are being recycled all around us today. It seems like everyone is nostalgic for that glossy decade with all of its pop culture staples, and Finnish artist Aliina Kauranne is no different. Her 3D, animated boots are an ode to the decade that defined her early life, from Furbies to lava lamps to “The Sims.” Here she tells writer Emma Firth about some of her favorite boots and the stories behind them.
Ask any 90s kid what that period was like, and you’ll receive a menu of pop culture cornerstones. I was that kid. This was the era of girl bands, boy bands, Britney, “Hey Arnold!,” MTV, “Sweet Valley High.” When days were a hypnotic haze of Nintendo Game Boys, Tamagotchis and Walkie Talkies. It was the golden age of romantic comedy. The internet was infantile, social media unchartered waters. It all seemed so… simple, and there’s a kind of peace to be found in jumping back into that era again.
In many ways, Aliina Kauranne’s world is a love letter to that innocent slice of a decade. Seamlessly bridging the gap between fact and fantasy, creating futuristic 3D and animated platform boots that draw on her “feel good” memories of coming of age. “I was born in 1992, so I was very influenced by the Spice Girls and their shoes,” she tells me from her home in Helsinki. Famously their aesthetic was a way of inhabiting an identity and there’s something endlessly captivating—especially during that flash of time when you have no clue who you really are or will be one day—about this element of performance. “Those platforms [are] so charismatic and powerful,” Aliina explains. “I had very practical parents, so I never got to wear those mega platform shoes growing up. I only wore flat boring shoes. I’m kind of living out my childhood dream.”
Here, nostalgia is a force for good and fun, a way to connect to hidden treasures of our past that offered the briefest of escapes. As Aliina says, “I just love that VHS aesthetic, there’s something about it that really touches my heart.” There’s a distinct sense of humor and playfulness, too, with designs featuring cutesy cameos from lava lamps to Furbys. Scrolling through her Instagram, I can’t help but feel reminded of afterschool times playing Sims, obsessively poring over what X and Y would wear in their virtual homes. Outfits that so obviously had zero attachment to my life in real time (which was, frankly, entirely the point.)
“I used to watch my brothers play videogames almost every day after school,” Aliina recalls. “But I was not that interested in the playing part, it felt too intense. I was only interested in clothing the characters.”
Pink, a reoccurring color theme for Aliina, is a form of chromatherapy: “it’s soft and calming.” The glossiness of this boot is purposely offset with a healthy dose of grit. “I love to play with contrasts,” she explains, referencing the cult cartoon series “Biker Mice From Mars.” “Mixing the pink with this kind of disgusting, chocolate, heel and [a] cute, monstrous chick character.” This mash up of both hyper femme energy and rebelliousness is rooted in Aliina’s upbringing, growing up with two brothers and having always felt both tomboyish and “the princess” of the family. “I think I always related to Sporty Spice’s tomboy-ness,” she says. “But I liked the girliness of Baby Spice. [I’m a] combination of the two.”
It’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t ask strangers their star sign. Somewhere down the line it became a softcore version of “so, what do you do?” Anyway, the point is, Aliina is a Sagittarius. True to astrological trait, she seeks adventure. “These last two years have been hard because you couldn’t travel a lot and everyday life in another country is so inspiring, especially in New York, [where] every person you see is like a character from a movie.” The starting point for her “LazerBoot” derived from clubbing in Berlin. “There were these really striking green laser beams,” she remembers. “I hadn’t been to a club for a long time. I wanted to celebrate fun.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any self-respecting child of the 90s either had or wanted to be in possession of a lava lamp. There was something so definitively cool, so oddly soothing, about a bedroom room lit up by this lurid liquid glow. Of course, at the time, most were likely completely oblivious to its psychedelic origins (an objet d’art invented during the flower power era). “There’s something so striking and vivid about the colours from the 1960s,” Aliina agrees. “They’re magnetic to the eye.” On a personal level, the “Lava Boot” was a way to translate something she had lost. “My previous red lava lamp had just broke and I was really devastated,” she says. “I tried to find another one in Finland but they’re really hard to find. So, I wanted to create a boot.”
Memories often erupt from a sense. The scent of a perfume can transport you back to the arms of a lost love; the sound of a song to a dancefloor; the feel of a fabric brushing against your skin to a time in your life you thought was out of touch, out of sight, out of mind. “For me, the fascination with this boot is the soft, fur-like, texture,” says Aliina. “I wanted to create a kind of sleep-time boot. It reminds me of those furry toys I had as a child.”
“Sometimes I get ideas from just a single word,” Aliina says. “A couple of years ago I got stuck on the work ‘pamper’ when I was very anxious. Pampering is a pretty uncommon word in Finnish. It reminds people of the diapers brand, so it was funny that it gave me so much comfort.” The sprinkler boot style was an incarnation of childhood indulgence: candy sprinklers. And while her fantasy footwear was born out of a creative block—“I had major anxiety at university with drawing with my hands, so I started learning how to use 3D software, like I was telling the computer what to do”—her goal has always been to make people feel at ease. “I hope my work makes people smile,” she says. “That’s something we all need.”